In March 2020, the shift from a life with reliable childcare and in-person school ended so abruptly, there wasn’t enough time or energy for strategizing, leaving mothers who were able to keep their jobs to bear the crushing weight of being full time remote workers and full-time caretakers at the same time. And from the constant interruptions to the need for primal screams, the pandemic took a terrible, and much-documented toll. To make matters worse, there was no escape—no quiet space to work or recharge, no respite from dirty dishes, and of course, the constant fear and anxieties of the pandemic buzzing in their ears.
But now, thanks in large part to the widespread availability of vaccines, we’re in a much better place than we were two years ago. For the most part, kids are back in school, childcare is becoming a bit more dependable, and since remote and hybrid work models have become the norm, moms and dads alike are able to redefine work-life balance on their own terms. After we all share a deep sigh of relief, we are now finally able to embrace the perks and benefits of remote and hybrid work for all parents, but particularly working mothers.
To be sure, the option to work remotely or in a hybrid model is a privilege that is not available to everyone. Many companies are requiring employees to head back into the office like it’s still 2019, and for retail, service, and healthcare workers, working remotely has never been an option at all. But for the women who can swing it (and work for companies with policies that support it), being able to work full or part-time out of the office can be a game changer—for their mental health, their marriages, and even their careers.
Below, three reasons why working remotely can be great for working moms.
Remote Work Helps Moms Set Boundaries
For the most part, working mothers are back to where they were pre-pandemic, with one notable difference: Many of their offices are still closed or have gone fully or partially remote, meaning they aren’t commuting, so they don’t have a clear delineation between work and home. Sure, there are the subjective benefits of being able to throw in a load of laundry or do a bit of meal prep before Zoom meetings, but it can be challenging, too.
“That’s the biggest downside of working remotely for me,” says Stacey, 32, a first-time mother and producer from New York. “I hate commuting, but sometimes it was helpful for making that switch.”
In order to momentarily escape their domestic obligations, many mothers are trying to structure their days so they aren’t constantly multitasking housework and conference calls. For some mothers, this means building a routine that involves getting out of the house and going somewhere, like a coffee shop or an on-demand workspace, like Daybase.
According to Eve Rodsky, the author of Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live), an alternative, out-of-the-house location is an essential component for success. “There is a secret formula for thriving during the pandemic,” says Rodsky. “By thriving, I mean people who said that they were doing okay in the midst of the biggest disruption of our lifetime. The secret formula is boundaries, systems, and communication. And it’s much easier to set a boundary if you're in a different physical space.”
There’s also something to be said about being more productive while working remotely. “When I was in the office, people were constantly coming up to me to talk, so I ended up having to take a lot of work home,” says Stacey. “But now I can do breakfast and playtime with my son before dropping him off at daycare, and then spend the rest of the day really focused on work.”
Those Boundaries Can Make Marriages More Equal
The conversation about the pandemic’s toll on working parents has focused primarily on mothers because women do significantly more unpaid domestic labor than men, are more likely to halt their careers due to the obligations of parenthood (especially during the pandemic), and are generally leaned on—and not compensated for—all the extra work that keeps families and children safe, fed, and happy. As the New York Times succinctly put it in this 2021 story, when anyone in the house needs or wants something: “They go to mommy first.”
But now that we’re two years into the pandemic, excuses or reasoning for this disparity is unacceptable, especially when remote work offers both parents the opportunity to be more engaged with their children and the obligations of family life. At this point, says Rodsky, parents should have a functioning system of what she calls “structured decision making,” i.e. who is responsible for what and when.
What is still challenging for many women, she says, is having the permission (from their partners and themselves) to be unavailable from the unpaid domestic labor. But there is a viable solution, says Rodsky: “It’s a lot easier to get permission to be unavailable (from yourself, and your spouse) if you have a physical barrier or physical space.”
Of course, this physical space can’t be “working from a bathtub with a child on their lap.” This space needs to be recognized as totally separate from the domestic realm and both partners need to communicate about the space and prioritize the time spent there in order for it to work (i.e. no texting mom while she’s there!).
Because if both parents are working remotely, both parents should be able to take turns picking the kids up from school, taking them to the playground during the day, giving each other breaks, and most importantly: supporting each other's success at work by minimizing as many interruptions as possible. It takes commitment and communication, but the benefits of a more equal partnership—from overall happiness to more frequent sex—are well-documented and scientifically proven. What’s more, working remotely means husbands/fathers are able to spend more time with their children, and that’s a good thing for everyone.
That Equality Can Make Moms Happier at Work
While schools were still remote and daycare was scarce, many women burnt out, and with a litany of reasonable justifications, left their jobs in droves. They felt unsupported during an unprecedented time, and found it impossible to be both a satisfactory employee and a satisfactory mother while maintaining their mental and physical health.
But with kids no longer stuck at home, working remotely now has the opportunity to make moms happier at work—especially when working remotely is backed up by similar pro-parent policies and culture, like stipends for childcare and on-demand workspaces like Daybase.
“Flexibility is the #1 benefit we see working parents looking for right now. But flexibility is not a one size fits all concept,” says Lauren Hobbs, the Chief Marketing Officer of Vivvi, an employer-sponsored childcare company in New York City that works directly with companies to offer early learning options and childcare to employees. “Our goal is to work with companies to offer an array of benefits so that the caregiver can choose for themselves what their family needs when they need it, and the company will not only offer those services but the flexibility to use them as they're helpful."
Ultimately, being able to structure her day through strategic decision making with her family and predictable flexibility with her job, as opposed to scrambling to make it work by any means necessary, pays dividends on a working mother’s ability to focus and show up fully both at home and in her career, as well as to stave off the onset of burnout. “Burnout can only be solved by being interested in your own life,” says Rodsky. “If employers don’t believe that's their obligation to help employees be interested in their own lives— then they're going to miss a huge opportunity.”
Thanks for reading this far. Now it’s your turn to do the talking. Let us know how hybrid work is working (or not working) for you. You can find us in all the usual places: Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.